COVID-19 origins : China rejects WHO proposal to return to Wuhan

Officials insist laboratory leak ‘extremely unlikely’ and deny response has lacked transparency.

China has rejected a proposal from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the professional crew investigating the origins of COVID-19 ought to return to the websites in China the place the coronavirus first emerged, saying researchers ought to as an alternative make a precedence of the “very likely” risk that the virus originated in animals and broaden their work to different international locations world wide.

Speaking at a information convention on the State Information Council Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, stated he was “surprised” that the WHO had proposed the crew return to locations within the central metropolis of Wuhan that they visited earlier this 12 months, and in addition examine the speculation that it leaked from a lab.

Zeng stated such a move was “not scientific”.

In a closed door assembly final week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed the second stage of the company’s investigation into the origins of coronavirus ought to embrace additional research in China in addition to lab “audits”.

“Finding the origins of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics,” Ghebreyesus stated. “For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency.”

The WHO has been below rising stress to step up its investigation into the origin of the virus, which first emerged in Wuhan and has now killed greater than 4.1 million individuals world wide.

Its crew of worldwide and Chinese consultants made their first go to to Wuhan in mid-January, greater than a 12 months after the primary instances of what was then a “mysterious pneumonia” have been first detected. They spent 4 weeks within the metropolis, visiting key websites together with the now-closed Huanan Seafood market, and two analysis laboratories that labored with viruses from bats – a suspected animal host for COVID-19.

China has dismissed options the coronavirus may have leaked from a Wuhan lab saying they function to worldwide security requirements [File: Shepherd Hou/EPA]

In a joint report launched in March the crew stated the virus had most likely been transmitted from bats to people by means of one other animal, however requires a deeper investigation into the virus’s origins have continued amid hypothesis that it may have escaped from one of many laboratories. In May, US President Joe Biden ordered a evaluation of the virus origins saying that intelligence businesses have been divided over whether or not it had come from animals or from a lab.

The speculation was additionally included within the WHO’s part two proposal though the speculation had been downplayed within the crew’s preliminary report.

“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng stated.

Yuan Zhiming of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, who was additionally on the press convention, stated the bioprotection methods on the labs in Wuhan have been “stable and reliable” and according to worldwide requirements.

“The general consensus by the academic community is that the coronavirus was naturally generated,” Yuan stated, and dismissed stories that three researchers had fallen sick with coronavirus-like signs shortly earlier than the primary instances emerged in Wuhan, as “completely out of nothing”.

Liang Wannian, who leads the Chinese scientists within the WHO crew and in addition spoke to the media, additionally dismissed questions over China’s transparency, saying it was not attainable to share the uncooked information from the earliest sufferers publicly, or enable it to be copied, due to privateness issues.

He pressured the necessity to concentrate on animal to human transmission and look not solely at bats, however different species together with pangolins, mink and ferrets. He additionally pressured that the place the place the primary instances have been detected may not be the place the illness had really originated, and reeled off quite a lot of international locations and cities the place coronavirus traces had allegedly been present in sufferers or in waste water at across the identical time because the sickness was being reported in Wuhan.

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